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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

How To Plot A Spontaneous Life Chart?

Plotting a life chart is one of the most valuable self-discovery methods I learnt from counselling. It is an effective exercise that enables us to reflect upon the person that we've become when we put them tangibly on paper. 

Every single person on Earth, is who they are today because of the journey and experiences they've lived through. In order to excavate these spontaneous emotions or memories out of oneself, this has to be done in the moment without any prior preparation.

This game can take up to about 30 minutes or more depending on how detailed you want your chart to be, or how deep you're willing to go to understand yourself. Each step has to be spontaneous, therefore in order for this to work, one must complete each level before reading the next step. 

All you need are some coloured pencils or pen and a blank piece of paper, preferably A4/A3 in size. There is no "correct way" of doing this as each mind perceives the world in their own different way, therefore let yourself explore and get creative with your chart.

Step 1:
Now with the paper in the orientation of choice: portrait or landscape, select a coloured pen of choice and draw a thick straight line at the middle, parallel to the orientation of choice. (Eg: Horizontal line for landscape, vertical line for portrait.)

Step 2:
Imagine the line as your life, starting from the day you were born till the person that you are now. Or it could start and end from any particular period of your choice. Depending on how well your memory serves you, you can choose how specifically detailed you want your chart to be.

Using short description or key words, pull out and list down every particular strong memory throughout your life in which you can recall spontaneously at this moment. It could be anything, ranging from good to bad, happy to tragic events that have impacted your life. Things that you may consider important or unimportant. Take all the time you need and take it easy. 

There are memories in which we can recall, and memories in which we can't. Sometimes, they may not make sense but don't worry, the more you pull out of your head, the more rewarding this chart of yours will be.

Step 3:
Now using different colours, compartmentalise and divide different sections of the life line into chunks or periods.

Step 4:
Give each chunk of period, a name or a suitable label of choice. 

Step 5:
Now describe each compartment with key words, adjectives or a single description of choice in accordance to your very own perception of how you feel about each period.

Finish: Possible Outcome
Make sure your own chart is completed before taking a further look because different minds conceive ideas differently. The chart should reflect you and your style of doing things, your  preference and own creativity. A possible example of a simple life chart might look something like this:

Upon Completion: What Do You Think?
Take a good look at what you've created. You are the person that you are today because of all the detailed memories and events that have manifested itself on this piece of paper, however overwhelmingly positive or negative they are. The deeper you go, the more beneficial it is to you.

This is where your analytical, observational and thinking skills would come in handy. Take time and try to reflect on each period along with the strands of memories that form the whole life line. The chart may depict unresolved issues, hidden thoughts and can also demonstrate inner resources and treasures that are present within oneself.

The memories do play a major role in telling the story. The chart was created in a state of self-reflection and is a product of how one perceives oneself. Therefore try to understand why did you use certain words or adjectives from Step 4 and 5 to describe the different compartments. What were their labels? Was there a particular reason as to why you divided it that way in Step 3

There are no limits as to the amount of questions that can be asked. For example:
•  Is there a pattern in which you can observe within the life chart?
•  What were the transitional periods between periods like?
•  How did you progress from who you were to who you are now?
•  How did one element gave rise to the other, what were their connections?
•  Why did I do what I did then?

There is no definite conclusion, or how deep this chart can bring you into understanding yourself. The most rewarding part of this activity I find, is finding someone who knows you very well. A confidant, a family member or a best friend and show them your completed chart. Start a discussion, tell them your analysis and also have them give you their point of view as external inputs are sometimes way better than our own. There maybe unanswered questions and undiscovered emotions that are affecting how we think and live our lives today.

For example, it was through the creation of my very own chart and discussing it with the therapist and my friends, that I found out where my severe sense of diffidence and insecurity started encroaching into my life. 

Once again, this post is written in the spirit of bringing service to others, may this exercise help some of you to rediscover parts of yourself.

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